The Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and the Portuguese-speaking Countries , by Carmen Amado Mendes

In 2003, the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and the Portuguese-speaking Countries was created in the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. In the paper published in Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional (RBPI, 6/2014), Carmen Amado Mendes argues that it has different characteristics from other forums created by Beijing. For instance, relations among member states’ representatives are institutionalized in a Permanent Secretariat, based in the Macau Special Administrative Region. Known as the Macau Forum, it gives to this Chinese enclave the role of a platform in connecting Beijing with the Lusophone world. The paper analyses whether this platform delivers concrete results or is merely a symbol of Macau’s identity after retrocession to China in 1999.

The Macau Special Administrative Region shares with the Lusophone countries the language and some cultural and administrative aspects, as a legacy of the Portuguese colonial administration. These specificities are supported by the local government, interested in promoting Macau as a point of encounter of the Lusophone culture. The Macau Forum is embedded with this symbolism, claiming a crucial role in promoting economic and trade exchanges between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries. This role has been publicly acknowledged by Beijing during the Ministerial Conferences of the Forum, which gather in Macau member states’ leaders every three years.

The paper analyzes the structure and modus operandi of the Permanent Secretariat of the Macau Forum, the support mechanism in charge of implementing decisions in a daily basis. The (financial) contribution given by the Special Administrative Region focuses on the areas of business and, most noticeable, human resources training. China’s special relationship with Sao Tome and Prince is also considered – despite having diplomatic relations with Taiwan, Sao Tome has been invited as an observer to the Ministerial Conferences of the Forum. The paper concludes that, more than a forum but less than an international organization, the Macau Forum is a very specific way of trans-regional cooperation, with a clear political dimension.

The member states that have a stronger relationship with China are Portugal (historical and political), Brazil (political, economic and commercial) and Angola (economic and commercial). Backed by extensive fieldwork, Mendes argues that the importance given to the Forum by the Portuguese-speaking countries changes according to the state of their bilateral relations with China; and that their perceptions of the Chinese financial support to the Forum is influenced by their level of development and financial situation. For instance, Brazil openly favors the bilateral relationship with China and even considers the Macau Forum as damaging to its interests, as it reinforces the Chinese presence in Lusophone Africa.

Contact:

Carmen Amado, University of Coimbra, Portugal; carmen.mendes@fe.uc.pt

Read the article:

MENDES, Carmen Amado. Macau in China’s relations with the lusophone world. Rev. bras. polít. int.,  Brasília ,  v. 57, n. spe,   2014 .   Available from <http://www.scielo.br/article_plus.php?pid=S0034-73292014000300225&tlng=en&lng=en>. access on  19  Oct.  2014.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329201400214.

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